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Ko Samet , also spelled Koh Samed, is a small island off the Eastern Gulf Coast, within easy reach of Bangkok and Pattaya.
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Points of Interest in Koh Samet
- Catch the sunset from dramatic cliff side locations along the southwest coastline.
- A fire twirling show heads up and down Hat Sai Kaew & Ao Hin Khok beaches between 18:00 and 22:30. A donation is appreciated.
Most beaches are on the eastern side of the island. The beaches hide in small bays and stretch some 200 m. From the north, there are Hat Sai Kaeo, Hat Hin Khrong, Hat Khlong Phai, Ao Phutsa, Ao Thapthim, Ao Naun, Ao Cho, Ao Thian, Ao Wai, Ao Kio Na Yok and Ao Karang. The only beach on the west side is Ao Phrahis. Note that spelling of beaches can vary due to transliteration.
Beaches from north to south on the east coast:
Hat Sai Kaew (Diamond Beach) One of the most beautiful and most popular beaches on Ko Samet, Hat Sai Kaew is 1 km long and 25–30 m wide. Most of this space is taken up with deckchairs from the restaurants. The name speaks for itself, Hat Sai Kaew, which literally means "crystal sand beach", is a nice beach filled with activities. Visitors can enjoy sunbathing, swimming, jet skiing, windsurfing (700 baht/hr), catamaran sailing (1,000 baht/hr) a banana boat or even partying at night. It can get a bit noisy due to all the motorized activity though.
Ao Hin Khok is separated from Hat Sai Kaew by a small rocky sea point where a mermaid statue is located. The beach is half the size of Hat Sai Kaew. There are some monk's accommodation along this stretch of sand that have signs asking people to be quiet. It makes for a peaceful spot just past the noise polluted Hat Sai Kaew Beach.
Ao Pai Located two beaches down from Hat Sai Kaew and just past Ao Pai. More or less of the same white, sandy stretches with a few nice restaurants at night and a big, concrete block of a bar where most party goers end up late at night.
Ao Put Sa is a small walk from Ao Pai beach over a small headland. Suitable for those who are tired of crowded beaches and nightlife activities. Ao Put Sa has a small pontoon with some OK snorkelling around it. Best time to stick you head under and have a look is at low tide.
Ao Nuan is located a 10 minute walk through the bush from Ao Put Sa and is a perfect hideaway for holidaymakers in search of tranquillity. All bungalows are handmade by the owner. Some have great character.
Ao Cho is a bit of a scruffy beach and if you have been following the "next beach" signs along the coast, you feel like you've seen better.
Ao Wong Deuan is the second largest beach on the island (the first being Hat Sai Kaew). Ao Wong Deuan has a ferry service with the mainland. It's best to talk to one the bungalows to book this than try and find it yourself.
Ao Thian (Candlelight Beach) Ao Thian’s topography is painted by rocky beach in which some nice spots for skin diving are available. This beach is very quiet and free from group tours.
Ao Wai is located within a short walking distance of Candlelight Beach. Shaded by coconut trees, the beach is a quite, scenic and serene spot for sea lovers.
Ao Kiu Nok This bay is a secluded den for those planning to keep their distance from the busy, crowded beaches and vibrant nightlife. There is currently a huge resort being built with a swimming pool and the small bungalows are slowly being knocked down. The eatery isn't the best but due being the only one on the beach, it's overpriced.
From Ao Kiew Nok, visitors can walk to Ao Kiew Nai along the road but getting a lift is better as it's hot, there's no breeze and not much to see.
Ao Karang is at the southern tip of Ko Samet. It's very quiet down here and could be the best place to experience the traditional lifestyle of the residents of Ko Samet.
Ao Wiang Wan is on the west of Nadan Pier, a large bay where lots of sport activities such as fishing, etc., take place.
Ao Phrao is one of the quietest beaches of Ko Samet. Located quite far away from the lively nightlife of Ko Samet; Ao Prow is an upmarket beach with no budget options. The blue sea, white sand and sunsets are all top notch.
How to get there: Four operators; namely, Nuanthip, Si Ban Phe, Phe Port, and Saphan Pla, around Ban Phe offer shuttle boat services between their ports and the main port of the island. All operators charge a flat rate of 100 baht per person for a round trip or 50 baht for a single journey. Boats can leave any time more than 20 passengers are waiting. The service is available around the clock, seven days a week. It's best to just buy a one way ticket from the pier and head down to the end to wait.
For groups of at least 7 persons, Nuanthip Boat (+66 38 651508) offers a shuttle boat service to other bays as well, such as Ao Wong Duean (120 baht each) and to the last bay Ao Pakarang (200 baht each). Si Ban Phe Boat (+66 38 651902) also runs a scheduled boat service during weekends between Ban Phe and the main port of Samet. The hourly boat service from Ban Phe runs from 08:00-18:00. On the return trip from Samet, the boat leaves at 10:00, 14:00, 16:00, and 18:00. The company also offers a speed boat service at 1,000 baht a trip for 12 people to the main port, or higher rates for other routes. A parking service on the main land is available. Ko Kruai, Ko Kham, and Ko Pla Tin (เกาะกรวย เกาะขาม และเกาะปลาตีน) These islands are some 600 m north of Ko Kudi. With coral reefs, tourists can enjoy fishing here. A rental boat service is available at the port in Ban Phe.
Ko Kudi or Ko Kut (เกาะกุฎี หรือเกาะกุด) This island is east of Ko Samet, 6 km from the mainland. Ko Kudi totals an area of 63 rai. A nice beach and coral reefs make it a nice place for a hideaway. Nearby islands are Ko Thai Khang Khao and Ko Tham Ruesi. Without accommodation, the national park office on the island offers a tent for rent at 200 baht per person/ night. Pitching a private tent requires paying a fee of 20 baht per person/night. For more information, call Tel. +66 38 653034, or in Bangkok at Tel.+66 2 56 2919 and +66 2 5612921.
Ko Thalu (เกาะทะลุ) Some 6 km east of Ko Kudi, the island is another scuba diving site among coral reefs. The island totals an area of 69 rai, most remains lush forest. While high cliffs occupy the west, white sandy beaches occupy the east and south of the island. Ko Thalu is a habitat of seagulls, flying fox, and turtles.
Tourists visiting Ko Kudi, Ko Kruai, Ko Kham, Ko PlaTin, and Ko Thalu should rent a boat from Ban Phe or Ko Samet. They should prepare food and water, as there is neither facilities nor food supplies available on such islands.
Popular events in Koh Samet in the near future
About Koh Samet
It is believed that once upon a time, Ko Samet was the home of pirates and that to this day there is still buried treasure somewhere on the island. Thailand's legendary poet, Sunthorn Phu, was the first one to put this island on the map when he set his classical epic, ‘’’Phra Aphai Manee’’’ ("The Story of Princes, Saga, Mermaids and Giants").
Even though Bangkok residents have known about the beauty of Ko Samet for decades, the Thai government put this island off-limits and restricted overnight stays there until 1981, when the Forestry Department of Thailand declared Ko Samet and its surroundings to be a national park and thus open for business.
Even though Ko Samet is only a few kilometres from the mainland, the island with its micro-climate (the driest archipelago in Thailand) gets much less rainfall than the rest of Eastern Thailand. The rainy season is May-Sep but even then it still has significantly less rain than the other islands in Thailand.
Ko Samet is a laid back island where the emphasis is less on things to do and more on enjoying the islands beaches.
For those people who do want something to do the island does have a few activities to enjoy if the beauty of the beaches is not quite enough to keep you occupied. From the simplest of activities such as walks along the beach, all the way through to taking your PADI Scuba Diving certificate there are an array of ways to keep yourself active.
Ways to see the island - The island is very small in comparison to the more tourist populated Thai islands around so exploring the island can easily be done on foot, bike riding or by hiring a motorbike/ATV and driving down the island to visit a few of the smaller more secluded beaches and taking in some of the more naturally forested areas further down to the south of the island.
Mountain Bike Rental - Mountain bikes can be rented from Village Cafe (Internet Cafe) opposite the school in the main village. Just ask for Kay and he will be more than happy to help with the mountain bikes or information for any other activities on the island.
Motor Bike Hire -The island has more motorbike hire shops than any other shops so they are not hard to locate and prices are standard ranging from 300-400 baht per day for manual or automatic bikes. Before hiring a bike you should be aware that once you enter the main national park entrance the roads are in very poor condition and only people with some experience would be advised to tackle them.
Gold Shop: This motorbike hire shop is just up from the national park entrance and 7-Eleven (opposite Chilli Restaurant). This family takes very good care of their motorbikes and ATVs. The owner, Jep, is a very friendly guy and always willing to help. His son also rents their vehicles from next to the 7-Eleven by the park entrance and Bow is also very helpful and if you rent for a few days will often offer good discounts.
Boat Trips - There are several companies on the island offering a variety of different boat trips from around the island on a large slow boat to a 7 island speed boat day trip visiting many of the surrounding islands from Samet. These trips are all of good value but be sure to have a chat before you book and make sure you are getting the trip you want and that they are not talking you into another trip as they cannot do the one you are asking for. Also all trips are dependent on weather conditions.
Samet Boat Trip - One of the original boat trip families on Samet, they offer a daily round-the-island boat trip. If you're lucky it could be a private trip or one with just a few other chilled out people on board. Their fleet consists of 2 large slow boats and 4 speed boats so different trips are available daily.
Scuba Diving -With the calm surrounding waters and coral reefs Ko Samet has something to offer those of all levels of diving, but it is an especially good place to learn to Scuba Dive with classes nearly always on the smaller side and often one on one with an instructor. With depths ranging from 5 m down to 25 m there is a variety of local sites to dive on and explore and there are also the outer islands that surround Ko Samet which offer stunning coral reefs, such as Ko Talu.
Blue Aura Divers based at the Sunrise Villas Resort (close to the main pier) are led by an English instructor and the guys will be able to help with all your diving needs locally and they are also very knowledgeable about the diving all over Thailand.
Seafood, seafood and seafood, some of the best barbecues are found along Ao Phai and Haat Sai Kaew beaches but they are found on all beaches and most serve the same as the next. There's also local food, curries, pizza, steaks and hamburgers. Almost every hotel and bungalow operation has its own restaurant but it's only the movies that differentiate them. Many also set up tables and chairs at night for dining on the beach. Crowds don't always mean they are good. The day trip companies make deals with restaurants and take their customers there.
If you are relaxing on the beach during the day there are plenty of hawkers selling fresh fruit, BBQ chicken wings, dried squid, papaya salad (can be extremely spicy) and even ice creams slightly more expensive than if you got up to get it.
At night check out the roti stands that pop up everywhere. This crepe-like desert can be filled with banana and topped with chocolate syrup or sweetened condensed milk, or any number of other combinations from 40 baht.
In town (Nadan), there are a few traditional Thai restaurants that serve good quality Thai food priced for locals. Most have menus in English.
If you are after a traditional Thai breakfast there are a couple of ladies who set up their mobile eatery daily next to the Tourist Police checkpoint that services Haat Sai Kaew. They serve boiled chicken on rice (khao man gai tom), fried chicken and rice (khao man gai tort) or rice porridge (jok) for 20-30 baht. The food is fresh and they do a brisk trade serving locals as well as a few tourists.
- Cafe Bar Old Amsterdam. Great European and Thai food for a good price.
- Gecko Bar (At the end of Ao Phai Beach next to Silversand Resort). Does an excellent barbecue with chicken steaks smothered in mushroom sauce and sizzling beef and chicken hotplates. Between 100 and 200 baht, these meals are good value. Good bar as well.
- Joe's (next to Ploy Thalee on Saikaew Beach). One of the best value barbecues on the island: large kebab, corn, potato and salad for around 100 baht.
- Tapas & Tacos (On the north coast, a minute or two from Nadan Pier). One of the more unique places to eat on the island, serving some excellent authentic Spanish and Mexican food in an atmospheric setting right next to the sea.
Although Ko Samet is not a renowned party island, Hat Sai Kaew and Ao Phai do get their fair share of backpackers, and therefore have their fair share of parties. Every day on Ao Phai flyers are handed out from the different bars that advertise the drink specials for that night, and might even give you a free drink. Biggest nights are generally Th-Sa, when more backpackers, expats and locals from Bangkok come to the island.
The main bars along Hat Sai Kaew are:
- Café Bar Old-Amsterdam (On the main road from the Nadan pier to Hat Keaw Sai Beach). A classic cosy pub with 70s/80s/90s/country/reggae and rock and roll music.
- Lima Bar (At the end of the village road, next to Buddy Bar). A small bar that's still getting started, but does excellent cocktails. Try the chocolate martini.
- Ploy Bar (In the middle of Haat Sai Kaew). A large, generally Thai-style night spot that often has live acts and some manner of sideshow games. A big establishment, you can't miss it.
- Sunrise Bar (On the "mermaid headland" at the bottom of Naga Hill). Small, newly opened bar is a nice spot to relax with a drink in the late afternoon, or chill out and enjoy their selection of guest DJs.
Along Ao Hua Khok/Ao Phai are:
- Baywatch Bar (Ao Wong Duan). Popular bar for foreigners and Thais with very relaxed chairs and an extended cocktail list to enjoy those long Thai nights.
- Papa Rodger's Bar, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A tiny bar with great character and interesting regulars. Has inexpensive accommodations as well.
- Silversand Bar (at the opposite end of Ao Phai to Naga). Silversand is generally where everyone ends up at the end of the night. The bar has a dance floor and the fire twirling kids stop by for their show.
- Tok's Little Bar (Next to Naga). A small thatched hut serves as the main bar for this laid back, chilled out drinking spot. They generally have good drink specials and a different theme for every night, so grab a bucket and chill out on a mat on the beach. Occasionally has some fire shows and special parties. Have accommodations: air-con bungalows (no cheap rooms) with individual bathrooms from 1,000 baht, depending on proximity to the beach. The bungalows are not necessarily pretty or overly clean
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Ko Samet on Wikivoyage.